On March 22, Dave Sykes, 46, lifted off in his microlight aircraft from Rufforth Airfield near York, England, with the goal of being the first paraplegic to fly to the North Pole — a 5,000 mile flight.
Sykes is doing the entire trip solo with no ground support. His wheelchair and survival gear are packed into the tiny microlight.
He expects the trip to take a month and will cover five countries with stop-offs for rest and re-fueling. Among the many challenges he faces will be temperatures as low as -40F. Although he has a heated flight jacket, gloves and helmet to manage the intense cold, no mention was made if he also has heated pants and boots to protect his legs and feet, where paraplegics often have circulation problems.
This is not Sykes’ first aviation challenge. In 2011 he became the first paraplegic to fly a microlight from England to Australia — also solo with no ground support. That 16,000-mile trip took more than three months.
Sykes became a T8 paraplegic in a motorcycle accident in 1993 and first tried ultralight flying in 2000. He quickly took to the sport and earned his pilots license in 2001. He describes flying like “being on a motorbike in the sky.” To date, he has logged over 1,000 hours of microlight fl